Is Arroyo faking her illness? | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Is Arroyo faking her illness?

/ 11:40 PM November 22, 2011

GMA IS faking it. She is not really that sick. And the Arroyo camp is lying when it said that there is no specialist here in the Philippines capable of treating her.

That, in effect, was what Dr. Leo Olarte of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) told the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. That was also what a close friend of mine, a former journalist, who was diagnosed with exactly the same bone disease that GMA has, told me over lunch last week. He goes to the St. Luke’s Medical Center, QC, for treatment once a month from Batangas. And he doesn’t look to me as if he is about to drop dead if he doesn’t get treatment abroad. In fact, he was being treated in the United States (he is a dual citizen) but chose to be treated here instead.


GMA’s condition is not life-threatening, Olarte said. But her situation is “freedom-threatening,” so it is understandable that she would be stressed and lose appetite.

There are 100 doctors specializing in her disease in the roster of the PMA, Olarte continued. All of them are willing to treat her. So when GMA’s spokesman said that St. Luke’s Medical Center had certified that “there are no specialists here capable of treating her so she has to go abroad for treatment,” that is not true. Olarte said there is no such certification in GMA’s medical records.


The PMA sent her a list of the specialists, so she can choose from the list who she would like to treat her but there was no response from her camp, Olarte added.

Her mouthpieces are giving the Philippine medical community a bad image, as though our doctors are a bunch of incompetents. We are promoting medical tourism in the Philippines, but here is a former president wanting to go abroad to be treated for a simple bone disease, the doctor said later. (Yes, I recall that the GMA administration was promoting medical tourism during her term. What happened to all the topnotch doctors, hospitals and facilities that we were bragging about?)

Asked about the prospect of having a team of government doctors, with GMA naming one or two of her choices, to look at her and give an assessment, Olarte said that would be a good idea.

President Aquino has also offered to fly in foreign doctors, at government expense, to treat GMA, but no, she insists on going abroad for treatment. The administration says once she is able to leave the Philippines, she will no longer return to escape prosecution, and that is why the DOJ is trying to prevent her from leaving.

Her medical condition may play an important role in the hearings before the Supreme Court, with GMA presenting one or two of her doctors as expert witnesses. The high court justices being lawyers, not doctors, would have no way of knowing whether the expert witnesses are telling the truth or pulling their leg, so there should also be expert witnesses from the administration side.

Anyway, all of these may be moot if the Arroyo Court declares, today or tomorrow, that the joint Comelec-Department of Justice committee that investigated and recommended the filing of electoral sabotage case against GMA is unconstitutional, as the Arroyo camp argues. That would nullify the charge and the warrant of arrest against GMA and she would be free to leave.

“What would you do then?” Political Affairs Secretary Ronald Llamas and Undersecretary Ibarra Gutierrez were asked. “What measures would you take to prevent her from leaving?”


Gutierrez replied that he was “optimistic” that due process would be followed in the GMA case.

“But in the case of the Arroyos, you cannot be optimistic,” a journalist butted in. “You should be pessimistic and take precautions.” (His observation was met with laughter.)

Llamas said there are prepared measures, “but of course I won’t reveal them because they might preempt us.”

“Is declaring the entire Philippines a ‘no-fly zone’, so no plane bearing GMA can leave, one of them?” somebody asked.

“Not to that extent,” Llamas replied. “No, that is not one of the measures.”

As for my journalist-friend, he has had the same condition that GMA has for quite some time. He had it when he was residing in the US and he was being treated there when he decided to come here for treatment because he was not satisfied with his treatment there.

Over lunch last week, he said that if GMA has the same disease, he has, she would not be able to turn her head or nod—the pain would be excruciating. “But I saw her on television turning her head and nodding,” he noted.

“That’s why she has that brace,” I said.

“Do you see me wearing one?” he retorted. “That is to court public sympathy. Why did her lawyer have pictures of her taken with the brace and have them released to the press? To court sympathy. But now they don’t want her mug shots, which are public records, released to the public.”

The third panelist was former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros who has been leading demonstrations at the Supreme Court and St. Luke’s urging the lifting of the TRO  against the DOJ’s watch-list order to prevent GMA’s departure. She was asked what gave her group the right to represent the Filipino “taong bayan,” as some of their placards say, to urge the incarceration of GMA not in a hospital but in jail.

She replied that her group was just one of the groups expressing their opinions on the GMA mess. “We are a part of the taong-bayan,” she said. “Others are free to express their own opinions.”

* * *


GMA: I don’t know what to do. When I was president, my critics wanted me to leave. Now that I am no longer president, they don’t want me to leave.

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TAGS: alleged electoral sabotage, Dr. Leo Olarte, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, GMA, GMA’s illness, Philippine Medical Association, St. Luke’s Medical Center
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